The Guy’s Guide to Bikini Competitions

A combination of beauty and brawn, and equal parts marketing and social media savvy, makes up the bustling and exciting world consuming the life of Tasha Star. She is an entrepreneur in a curious industry, one that tilts towards sex, embraces physical fitness, and fosters a competitive spirit.

Star is a fitness model, coach, and bikini competitor, part of a massive industry that attracts attention, positive and negative. Star’s foray and transformation began some five years ago when she simply opted to take better care of her body and hit the gym. If you met her back then, you’ll probably be surprised by how she looks now.

That’s because soon enough, Star’s presence was attracting attention. With natural effervescence and disciplined attitude, Star’s gym life began to welcome in coaches and industry professionals. They urged her to consider competing, and Star to her credit immersed herself in research to better understand what she was getting into.

A couple years later and Star was ingrained in the fitness world, entering in bikini fit competitions while endeavoring to be a coach, gain sponsors, and of course keep her body in the right shape.

“I think don’t know if I’m necessarily a fully accurate representation in the industry,” says Star over the phone. “I kind of lucked out in how fast things moved for me because of social media. It was never something I really planned on.” Star spoke from her home in Toronto, having just returned from a sudden trip to Florida at the behest of her sponsor. “I I just played around with it, watched out how people used it, saw what worked and what didn’t. I feel like for me that was kind of imperative for me being able to get where I am right now. It was easy for me to market myself.”

Star currently has over 84,000 followers on Instagram and another 5,000 likes on her Facebook page. She doesn’t have a website—and doesn’t really need one. Photos and videos of her workouts join professional modeling shots and sponsored content alongside inspirational quotes, shots of meals, and the occasional dog pictures on her very active feed. She tries to stay in contact with supporters and respond to as many people as possible.

“2015 seems like my breakthrough year,” says Star, who recently took first place in the bikini class at the Ontario Provincial Championships. Star has 25 clients that she works with online, catering specific workouts. She has a weight-loss book coming out in July titled What Women Need, and she has secured sponsorships with Prime Nutrition, Blackstone Labs, Ravish Sands Bikinis, and Glam Competition Jewelry.

So it’s a business. It’s as much about getting regarded by the judges at competitions as already being recognized before you show up; it’s showing results, but also being glamorous and knowing how to show off results. It involves disciplined workouts and disciplined eating. It’s about spending time at the gym and spending time on your computer; Star says that social media can take up to 30-40% of her work a day. That’s all part of what’s required for someone who has lofty goals.

“I want to be one of the big faces of Canada,” Star says, looking at the impact and influence of Paige Hathaway in the U.S. Star is off to nationals in Halifax next month, looking to continue her rise.

Her transformation is perhaps staggering, inspiring, and hard to comprehend. ”People don’t realize just how much time and effort goes into it. The work ethic involved in getting where I am is something that a lot of people don’t have in the industry specially. To spend all that time and effort into the gym, you have to be a little nuts,” says Star, laughing. “You have to like to suffer, that’s the bottom line.”

Of course the bodybuilding industry, and specifically the subset that puts women in bikinis on display, defining specific ideas of beauty, femininity, and fitness, is not without skeptics and concerns. Star admits people question how sexy the industry can portray itself, and critics contend that looks may trump health. There are those that starve themselves before competitions to fit the look, while there are those that take steroids. Star values her health most importantly, but also understands she needs to look a certain way to move forward.

Last summer Star announced on social media that she would be getting a breast augmentation. “It is something that will help me in the long run in fitness competitions and fitness modeling so it’s both a personal want and something that I sort of need to help me further my career,” she posted on Facebook. “This is in no way to say that it’s necessary to have in order to do well in the fitness industry, but I feel it is the right thing for me at this time in my life and career.”

Star embraces a newfound career and industry that challenges her, welcoming the support from those closest to her while hoping to motivate others. “I feel like I’m so passionate about being competitive, so passionate about inspiring and helping others,” says Star. “I don’t feel like I work, I feel like the most fortunate. I don’t have any complaints.”

“Never before did I feel like waking up and saying, ‘what else can I do to be better and get more out of this?’ Normally I’d be like, ‘what can I do to get more sleep?’” That would seem more the norm, while Star and her colleagues favour a more intense living.

Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.
Photography courtesy of Tasha Star. 

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